Hope clearly did not work. What’s next?

In the Weekend Australian newspaper, workplace relations journalist Ewin Hannan reported on a presentation (paywalled) made by the Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke to the Attorney-General’s Department staff. (Safe Work Australia, currently, exists in this department)  From Hannan’s report, the focus seems to have been on industrial relations but it’s useful to consider Minister Burke’s words from an occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective given that it is highly likely that Safe Work Australia personnel were one of the “hundreds” attending or listening in. Burke said:

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Another attack and death of a remote area nurse

In 2008 a remote area nurse was raped and assaulted in her work-related residence in Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait. More recently, South Australia had a similar incident – the rape and murder of nurse Gayle Woodford while working on-call alone. Both have resulted in inquiries by Coroners, Departments of Health and others, with similar outcomes, primarily that these incidents could have been prevented.

The recent outrage around Woodford’s death was that SafeWorkSA investigated and decided not to proceed with a prosecution of her employer Nganampa Health Council (NHC). The Coroner had already investigated Woodford’s death and found significant deficiencies in the NHC’s management systems and practices. Understandably questions have been asked in the South Australian Parliament, questions that raise important occupational health and safety (OHS) issues.

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Does OHS research have a Left and a Right?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has had an uneasy ride in political debates in Australia, often because there is a disturbing morality in laws that dictate an employer has responsibility for the safety and health of their workers, even if legal wriggle room is allowed. There is no written history of OHS in Australia except within the confines of Industrial Relations, if it gets mentioned at all.

Recently I engaged in a conversation with a professional colleague on LinkedIn (I know, didn’t your Mother always say not to engage with people on social media? Well, this is a blog so….). That colleague made some odd political statements.

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Australia’s Wellbeing Budget and Living Standards Framework is on its way

Australia’s new Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, shows an awareness of the importance of good mental health in Australia’s citizens and workers but his strategy, which remains in its infancy, has some problems.

In one of Chalmers’ first interviews after the Australian Labor Party won power last month, he was asked about the Budget he will be releasing in October 2022 (the same month as National Safe Work Month!):

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Safety (funding) differently

When Tony Abbott was the (Liberal) Prime Minister, he reduced the commonwealth grants program substantially as part of his austerity and “debt” and deficit” strategies. This resulted in defunding many occupational health and safety (OHS) support and research units of trade unions, industry associations, etc. OHS has been poorly served ever since. The new (Labor) government has an opportunity to resurrect some of these OHS units by allocating some level of funding and, perhaps, expanding it beyond the traditional consultation triumvirate.

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Applying a big stick ….. of foam

South Australian (SA) Greens MP Tammy Franks has again proposed a Bill on Industrial Manslaughter (IM) to the SA Parliament. For at least the sixth time! Franks may remain unsuccessful as the recently elected Australian Labor Party has promised its own IM Bill. Either way, South Australia will likely have Industrial Manslaughter laws very soon.

In Parliament on May 4 2022, Franks reiterated the importance of these laws but also illustrated their weaknesses.

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Insecure work is not going away, but it should

Insecure work creates stress for workers and their families yet companies continue to choose insecure work contracts for this type of work. They must take some responsibility for the physical and mental health consequences.

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Insecure work creates stress for workers and their families yet companies continue to choose insecure work contracts for this type of work. They must take some responsibility for the physical and mental health consequences.

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